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Texas Attorney General Wants To Prevent Gay Workers From Caring For Sick Spouses

Paxton

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (above with Sen. Ted Cruz) doesn't want gay employees to be able to take time off from work to care for their ailing spouses.

Paxton, a tea partier, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Obama administration over a new rule extending the Family & Medical Leave Act to same-sex couples who live in states that don't recognize their marriages. 

Paxton is also advising state agencies — which employ 310,000 people — not to follow the new FMLA rule. 

“This lawsuit is about defending the sovereignty of our state, and we will continue to protect Texas from the unlawful overreach of the federal government," Paxton said in a statement. "The newly revised definition of ‘spouse’ under the FMLA is in direct violation of state and federal laws and U.S. Constitution. Texans have clearly defined the institution of marriage in our state, and attempts by the Obama Administration to disregard the will of our citizens through the use of new federal rules is unconstitutional and an affront to the foundations of federalism.”

Some background from The Washington Blade

After the Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, the Obama administration sought to extend the federal benefits of marriage to the furthest extent possible under the law.

But FMLA by regulation looked to the state of residence, not the state of celebration, to determine whether a couple is married, so for a time married same-sex couples in non-marriage equality states were ineligible for benefits under that law, which enables an individual to take time off from work to care for a spouse.

The new rule, made final by the Labor Department last month and set to take effect March 27, changes the regulatory framework to ensure these benefits are available to married same-sex couples regardless of their state of residence. 

It's worth noting that the FMLA doesn't require employers to give workers paid time off to care for sick spouses. It merely guarantees their health insurance will continue and grants them 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year "to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition." 

Paxton's lawsuit seeks to prevent the new rule from taking effect not only in Texas, but in all 12 states where same-sex marriage is still banned. However, because the lawsuit is based on the marriage bans, it would be presumably be nullified if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes them down. 

Paxton also recently sought to void the marriage of a 30-year lesbian couple, one of whom has ovarian cancer. 

Daniel Williams, legislative director for Equality Texas, told The Texas Tribune: “I think there are a lot of people who would like to know why the attorney general cares if loving, committed couples are recognized as loving, committed couples."

Read the full complaint, AFTER THE JUMP... 

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Puerto Rican Government May Soon Stop Defending Its Same-Sex Marriage Ban

A new report out of Puerto Rico suggests that the U.S. commonwealth may soon ends its defense of a statute that bans same-sex couples from getting married. Via The Washington Blade:

6a00d8341c730253ef0192aa799605970d-200wiEl Nuevo Día reported Gov. Alejandro García Padilla’s administration is “contemplating” a “change of posture” and will “withdraw its support of the Puerto Rican statute that only recognizes marriage as a union between a man and a woman.”

The governor — who is named as a defendant in a lawsuit against the U.S. commonwealth’s gay nuptials ban that two women from San Juan filed last March — has until Friday to submit a formal response to the case with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston which is considering the lawsuit.

“I prefer not to comment on any final decision,” Puerto Rico Justice Minister César Miranda told El Nuevo Día during an interview in D.C. where he was attending a hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. 

In a follow up question, Miranda "appeared to suggest" that Puerto Rico would change its policy on same-sex marriage. However, a spokesperson for Puerto Rico's Department of Justice, Amber Lee Vélez, was illusive when responding to The Washington Blade's request for a comment on Miranda's remarks:

On same-sex marriages, Secretary César Miranda has said that there is litigation in the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in which (the Puerto Rico Justice Department) has until this Friday, March 20, to file a response on the part of the state,” said Lee. “It will be the appropriate moment to publicly share the state’s position to the point raised once this task has been completed.” 

Previously, Governor Padilla signed an LGBT rights bill into law in May of 2013.


Presbyterian Church Gives Approval For Same-Sex Marriage In Historic Vote

Members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted Tuesday to change its official definition of marriage to include same-sex unions. The New York Times reports: 

6a00d8341c730253ef01a73ddc8bd2970d-300wiThe final approval by a majority of the church’s 171 regional bodies, known as presbyteries, enshrines a change recommended last year by the church’sGeneral Assembly. The vote amends the church’s constitution to broaden marriage from being between “a man and a woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”

The Presbytery of the Palisades, meeting in Fair Lawn, N.J., put the ratification count over the top on Tuesday on a voice vote. With many presbyteries still left to vote, the tally late Tuesday stood at 87 presbyteries in favor, 41 against and one tied.

“Finally, the church in its constitutional documents fully recognizes that the love of gays and lesbian couples is worth celebrating in the faith community,” said the Rev. Brian D. Ellison, executive director of theCovenant Network of Presbyterians, which advocates gay inclusion in the church. “There is still disagreement, and I don’t mean to minimize that, but I think we are learning that we can disagree and still be church together.”

The church, with about 1.8 million members, is the largest of the nation’s Presbyterian denominations, but it has been losing congregations and individual members as it has moved to the left theologically over the past several years. There was a wave of departures in and after 2011, when the presbyteries ratified a decision to ordain gays and lesbians as pastors, elders and deacons, and that may have cleared the way for Tuesday’s vote.

In June, the Church voted to allow clergy to officiate at same-sex marriages. As recently as November, church clergy were still said to be deeply divided over the question of same-sex marriage. 

Though many conservatives remain opposed to marriage equality, not all plan to leave the church:

Paul Detterman, national director of The Fellowship Community, a group of conservatives who have stayed in the church, said: “Our objection to the passage of the marriage amendment is in no way, shape or form anti-gay. It is in no way intended as anything but concern that the church is capitulating to the culture and is misrepresenting the message of Scripture.”

He added, “We definitely will see another wave, a sizable wave, of conservative folks leaving,” but said he and others were staying because “this conversation is dreadfully important to be a part of.”


Community Rallies Behind Ohio Lesbian Couple After Facing Discrimination From Videographer

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Bexley, Ohio couple Jenn Moffitt and Jerra Kincley found themselves shocked after local wedding business Next Door Stories, a video production business, denied them services for their upcoming wedding, according to CNN. Moffitt expressed shock and dismay at the response, especially after trying to support a local business.

Said Moffitt:

"I couldn't believe it. It is a small business, and I thought this was a tight-knit community. We wanted to support local commerce and to get that kind of response was astounding."

The couple reached out to the Bexley Area Chamber of Commerce through its Facebook page five weeks ago to file a formal complaint against the business; the couple also shared their experience on Facebook to raise awareness and garner attention from local officials. Fortunately for the couple, they mostly received positive feedback on their Facebook post with photographers offering their services and kind words from locals. Bexley Area Chamber of Commerce addressed the incident on its Facebook page, declaring that the organization does not tolerate discrimination in any form.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 9.38.18 PMAlthough sponsors killed a proposed Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act last year over concerns it would open the door to discriminate against the LGBT community, Bexley, which is a suburb of Columbus, is not one of the municipalities in Ohio that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, the Chamber of Commerce reviewed the situation and dispersed a letter to its members saying its board is in the process of rewriting its policy to forbid applicants and current members from discriminating based on gender, gender expression, color, race, age, religion, disability, ancestry, sexual orientation, marital or military status. Belly Mayor Ben Kessler also took to his Facebook page to address the matter saying that although the community respects, includes and embraces all individuals, it does not have authority over the Commerce’s membership as it is a private entity.

Ohio is one of 13 states left that ban same-sex marriage. However, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to make a final decision on whether the state’s same-sex marriage ban is constitutional in spring that could officially lift the state’s ban.


Texas Lawmakers May Have Set A Record For The Most Anti-LGBT Bills In The History Of Any State

Cake

Jon Stewart was dead on last night when he said Texas lawmakers are munching on some serious hate cake

The Texas Observer reports today that they've now apparently set a record for the most anti-LGBT legislation in the history of any state. 

At least 20 anti-LGBT measures were introduced prior to last week's filing deadline. That's more than what is believed to be the previous record of 16 in Oklahoma this year. 

But in the Sooner State, 15 of those bills have already died, and LGBT advocates in Texas say they're confident they'll have similar results. 

From the Observer

EqTxDaniel Williams, legislative specialist for Equality Texas, said the group is “well-positioned” to defeat every piece of anti-LGBT legislation. Williams called it the worst session for LGBT rights since 2005—when the state’s marriage amendment passed and a proposal to ban gay foster parents was defeated on the House floor.

“What’s different about this Legislature than 2005 is that Texas, like most of the nation, has evolved on LGBT issues, and that mainstream voice is emerging and is being heard in the Texas Legislature,” Williams said. “It damages the Texas brand, and I think that’s why you’re seeing so many business voices get involved. … We also know how this process works better than our opposition does.”

Bell.CecilThe anti-LGBT legislation in Texas ranges from proposals targeting same-sex marriage, to religious freedom "license to discriminate" amendments, to bans on local LGBT protections, to bills that would criminalize transgender bathroom use.

GOP Rep. Cecil Bell (right), who's leading the charge with four anti-LGBT bills, told the Observer

“Unfortunately, I think it gets couched as ‘anti.’ It’s not about ‘anti.’ It’s about being pro-states’ rights. It’s about being pro-traditional values,” Bell said. “We’re seeing the results of a federal court system that doesn’t seem to be respecting the rights, the sovereignty, of the states and of the people. Because of that, you see the state legislatures pushing back.”

Pena.GilbertAnd GOP Rep. Gilbert Pena (right), the author of two of the four transgender bathroom criminalization bills, said this:

“This bill really is trying to establish the students’ rights to privacy,” said Rep. Gilbert Pena (R-Pasadena), who wants to make schools liable for damages if they allow transgender students to use restrooms based on how they identify. “How many girls in our high schools are going to be willing to allow some transgender male into their bathroom? Would you allow that for your daughter? I would not allow it for my daughter.”

Apparently, Pena doesn't quite understand the concept of transgender, since his bill would actually require transgender males to use the restroom alongside his daughter. 

Ahh, Texas. 


Alabama Federal Judge Refuses To Stay Gay Marriage Ruling

6a00d8341c730253ef01bb07efa2c1970d-500wiU.S. District Judge Callie Granade has refused a request from a county judge to stay her ruling which struck down Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage. Granade's order compels Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis (pictured right) to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Reuters reports:

Alabama's all-Republican Supreme Court had contravened that ruling earlier this month. It ordered probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, arguing that the ban was constitutional.

The clashing court orders underscore the depth of opposition to gay marriage in socially conservative Alabama. The gay-marriage ban was passed in 2006 by 81 percent of voters.

Davis, in the face of the contradictory directives by a federal judge and the state Supreme Court, had halted issuing all marriage licenses, to same-sex and opposite-sex couples, and asked Granade to stay her ruling. She declined.

"Although the court would agree that the developments in these same-sex marriage cases has at times seemed dizzying, the court finds that Judge Davis has not shown that a stay is warranted," Granade wrote in the order.

Judge Granade's order seems to make clear that her ruling, not the State Supreme Court's, should take precedence.


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